Innovative Supply Chain Information Platform Will Help Prepare for the Next Pandemic

(from left) Ms. Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of WFP; Dr. Nobuhiro Endo, Chairman of the Board, NEC Corporation

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and NEC Corporation today announced their collaboration for the development of the first ever information platform to provide end-to-end visibility of supply chains for pandemic interventions, on behalf of the Global Pandemic Supply Chain (PSC) Network. The government of Japan has provided US$1 million for the PSC Network, which will be used as seed funding for the new information platform.

The Global Pandemic Supply Chain Network was formed in response to lessons learned from the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak and discussions that followed at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2015, where the need for a collaborative, multi-stakeholder response became clear. The founding members of the Network, representing the public sector, include WFP, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Bank, and representing the private sector, Henry Schein, Inc., Becton, Dickinson & Co., and UPS Foundation.

The challenges faced during the West Africa Ebola outbreak included severe warehousing and distribution capacity constraints, limited visibility of the overall supply and demand of critical items, access constraints caused by border closures, and a lack of public-private sector coordination resulting in duplicate efforts and an inefficient response.

These challenges are being answered by organizations including WFP, WHO, UNICEF, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Bank, World Economic Forum, U.S. Agency for International Development, University of Minnesota, GS1, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in collaboration with private sector companies, including Henry Schein, Inc., Johnson & Johnson, UPS Foundation, Becton, Dickinson & Co., and NEC. They have worked together in an unprecedented fashion to develop a framework for improving pandemic preparedness and response.

Supply chain logistics are fundamental to any emergency intervention. Inadequate preparedness and response capacity leads to critical delays, costs lives and wastes precious resources. By bringing together information on supplies and logistics and enabling analysis of supply chain inefficiencies, the new information platform, which will be part of the Global Pandemic Supply Chain Network, will promote timeliness and cost efficiency as well as aid in continuous improvement.

“In order to achieve any one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, we must all do our part, lending our unique expertise and experiences to innovating solutions to global problems,” said Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of WFP. “I am proud of the work being done by the PSC Network. The creation of this new platform is a prime example of the amazing endeavours that are possible when the public and private sectors work together.”

NEC was the first Asian company to join the PSC Network and remains the only Information and Communications Technology company in the Network. Together with WFP, known throughout the humanitarian sector for its extensive supply chain network that can reach the world’s most vulnerable people in times of crisis, NEC will focus on designing a logistics visualization system that will enable end-to-end tracking of pandemic response items, such as protective clothing and medical equipment within a country facing an outbreak, helping to ensure quick and appropriate delivery of supplies to people in need. Other key functions of the system include reporting, data integration with existing logistics systems and in-country warehouse management.

“We are honored to collaborate with WFP and the other members of the PSC Network to strengthen the global supply chain for pandemic preparedness and response in order to more effectively fight the next disease outbreak,” said Dr. Nobuhiro Endo, Chairman of the Board, NEC. “This is a perfect example of our commitment to creating safe, secure, efficient, and equal societies through the provision of innovative information and communications technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, which also contributes to the United Nations’ SDGs.”

As members of the PSC Network jointly advocated the need for more efficient pandemic supply chain, the Japanese government has since committed US$1 million to development of the Network, allowing NEC and WFP to begin work.

“It is widely recognized that the global health architecture could be reinforced with improved supply chain platform to enable better preparation and faster response time for pandemics,” said Mr. Hideaki Chotoku, Director of Humanitarian Assistance and Emergency Relief Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. “The Japanese Government welcomes and is proud to support the PSC Network which also involves Japanese IT technology. We look forward to monitoring its progress in designing this innovative tool.”

“It is widely recognized that the global health architecture could be reinforced with improved supply chain platform to enable better preparation and faster response time for pandemics,” said Mr. Hideaki Chotoku, Director of Humanitarian Assistance and Emergency Relief Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. “The Japanese Government welcomes and is proud to support the PSC Network which also involves Japanese IT technology. We look forward to monitoring its progress in designing this innovative tool.”

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